One of my favorite hometown dishes is rice noodle salad. Every time when I talk to my friends who live in Xi’An, my hometown in China, they always tell me they will eat some of those spicy noodles for me. My response is “ How about just shovel some into your computer and click ‘send’ ?” What they can send is their happy and satisfied face after enjoying a bowl of those popular noodles. Well, I really can’t resist the flavor and thinking about it all day and night. So, on this side of planet, I have to figure out the recipe, the magic flavor that always makes my mouth water.
I know there are two key elements to make that authentic flavor, spice broth and chill oil. Let’s make the first element today. If you have cooked some Chinese dishes before I think you probably know there is a spice called five-spice. Obviously, it is a mixture of five different spices. But if I dump that store bought spices on the rice noodle salad, I would not get nearly the same flavor as I had in China. Five spices will not work!! Here is the list of the spices I used to make this spice broth, it is nine, not five. 1)cumin seeds(Chinese: 孜然, pinyin: zīrán); 2)Sichuan pepper corn(Chinese: 花椒, pinyin: huājiāo); 3)fennel seeds(Chinese: 茴香子, pinyin: huíxiángzǐ); 4)star anise(Chines:八角, pinyin: bājiǎo); 5)Whole Clove(Chinese: 丁香, pinyin: dīngxiāng); 6)Tsaoko fruit(Chinese: 草果，pinyin: cǎogǔo); 7)bay leaf (Chinese: 香叶, pinyin: xiāngyè); 8)sand ginger(Chinese: 沙姜，pinyin:shājiāng); 9)cinnamon stick(Chinese: 桂皮, pinyin: guìpí).
Well, it is a long list, isn’t it? You might wonder why I put Chinese there. I will tell you the answer in a minute. I believe most of those spices you can find in your local grocery store at the spices section. If you couldn’t find all of them, try two different types stores. First, check out your local health food store at their bulk section. Or shop at Asian grocery stores in your area which normally have cheaper price for spices. If you are going to go to a Chinese grocery store, you can easily copy-paste-print the Chinese name of each spice I listed above, take your print-out with you and show that to the store assistant. This definitely will make your shopping easier, especially if you don’t speak Chinese. Is that simple? If you only can find most of them, it will still work!
Alright, you got what you need, just add each spice and boil in water for 30 minutes, that’s it! It’s ready to use. I like to make a large batch and store in refrigerator because it can also be used in a lot of different Chinese cold salad dishes.
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 tsp Sichuan pepper corn
- 1 tsp Fennel Seeds
- 1 medium size Star Anise
- 1 piece Whole Clove
- ½ piece Tsaoko Fruit
- 2 Bay Leaf
- 4 pieces Sand ginger
- 1 piece as big as your thumb Cinnamon stick
- 1½ cups water
- Place 1½ cups water and all spices into a pot, bring the water to boil then set the heat to medium low to simmer for about 30 minutes. Boiling fast will not brew the spices properly.
- Remove from heat and let the spice broth steep/rest till it cools down to room temperature. Strain the broth through a very fine mesh strainer to remove spices. This spice broth can be stored in refrigerator up to 10 days.
Always add an extra ¼ cup of water because of the evaporation of water during boiling.